Finite financials

With the clock ticking on its existing application suite, Grindlays Qatar Bank had to find a new core banking system fast. After scouring the market, the finance house found Misys’ Equation. The solution not only provides the Qatari institution with a banking system for today, but also one it can build on in the future.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  November 24, 2003

Introduction|~||~||~|Grindlays Qatar Bank Q.S.C. (GQB) has successfully rolled out Misys’ Equation core banking system. Implemented in just eight months, the solution replaces the Doha-based operation’s existing IT infrastructure, which was provided the bank’s former owner, Australia & New Zealand (ANZ) Banking Group.

While the antipodean application stack suited GQB’s needs, continuing with the system was not an option for the Qatari bank due to its changing ownership. In the past three years the finance house has been an ANZ-owned operation, a Standard Chartered joint venture and, as it stands today, a 100% locally-owned bank. As such, GQB could only use the ANZ apps for a set period without incurring severe financial penalties.

“We were a foreign branch of ANZ and then a joint venture, during which we continued to use ANZ’s systems… However, there was a finite period of three years during which we could use that software as part of Standard Chartered,” explains Des Holmes, GQB’s general manager. “If we continued using the system as non-partners then there would be financial penalties, so there was rather a large financial incentive to get off the system,” he says.

Another reason for migrating to a new core banking application was local support, which GQB could see decreasing as ANZ left Qatar to focus on its core markets in the Asia Pacific region and Standard Chartered also shifted its attentions elsewhere. “ANZ is not a regular supplier of software to third parties... Essentially, they have a Melbourne-based IT centre and some support out of Bangalore, so we would be at the wrong end for support,” explains Holmes.

“There were indications the relationship with Standard Chartered wouldn’t continue — the local shareholders bought them out in May this year — so there was no point putting in a Standard Chartered system as we would end up in the same position,” he adds.

To ensure GQB actually had a core banking application in place when it became a fully owned Qatari operation on June 1 2003, the organisation’s senior management set about scouring the local market for a suitable system. However, as time was of the essence, the bank focused on finding a solution that met its business needs rather than a technical behemoth.

“We had an agreement to use the existing system for 12 months after the sale date. [But] our aim was to move to an independent system as soon as possible after we became independent... However, we did not have the ability to do a full search of all the solutions available so instead we narrowed it down to those that fitted our business strategy,” Holmes says.

“The financial penalties for continuing to use the ANZ system [after the 12 months] were quite horrendous so there was a real imperative to get off that as quickly as possible. It is not as if we have gone from something that was inadequate to something better, but we have replaced one good system with another,” he continues.

Another factor in GQB’s decision to implement Misys’ Equation solution was its integrated functionality. In addition to negating potential compatibility problems, the bank could ill afford to take its time and select best-of-breed solutions.
“We couldn’t just pick and choose the pieces we wanted to replace,” says Holmes. “On a particular date we had to replace everything in the bank — the full works. We did not have the luxury of picking up different applications because we had to get a full solution,” he explains.

The core banking application was implemented in a modular fashion by Misys staff and an inhouse team over the eight-month period. Such an accelerated implementation was achieved by dealing with problems as they occurred.
“We had a steering committee of three people that could meet during the day and give an answer should a problem arise. We accelerated the decision time and there was no politics, which meant we could implement the solution quickly,” explains Holmes. “Time savings were also achieved because of our experienced staff and our small size,” says Holmes. ||**||II|~||~||~|
The system runs over a local area network (LAN), which replaces the bank’s existing WAN set up. It has also replaced its legacy HP servers with iSeries machines from IBM. While the implementation was taking place, GQB’s employees were trained on the new core banking system.

Although formal training sessions were organised, the bulk of the knowledge transfer took place on the job due to each department head’s hand-on approach to the project and their need to parameterise the banking application according to their specific requirements.

“Because each department is quite small and runs at about six people, they were helping design and parameterise the system. The department heads and their assistants were getting hands-on understanding of the solution as it was being developed and they were responsible for training the rest of their staff with Misys consultants,” says Holmes.

In addition to learning how to use Equation, GQB’s staff were responsible for cleansing the data that needed to be migrated from the ANZ application to the new core banking system. While information accuracy was checked manually, the migration itself was handled by a proprietary conversion programme, which was written by Misys using resources from ANZ in Bangalore and GQB. Once complete, the software moved both the bank’s static data and live customer information.

“First we transferred the static data, such as customer name, account number and addresses. We did this a week before the conversion date. We then mapped across the dynamic information, such as account balances, on the [go live] day,” Holmes explains.
Moving forward, GQB’s clean data will be used to fuel a business intelligence (BI) application as the Qatari bank looks to improve its customer service levels and identify new prospects within its client base. Other projects in the pipeline include online banking and expanded customer information access. The bank also intends to keep track of what the Qatar finance industry’s other Misys users are doing in case an opportunity to maximise its IT investment presents itself.

“Qatar National Bank, for instance, is using this software and it represents over 50% of the market, so hopefully we can leverage that in the future,” says Holmes. “However, for the first three months of 2004, the focus will be on bedding the system down, making sure we use it properly and keep the data clean.”
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